Cape Agulhas is a wine district in the Western Cape of South Africa. It is noted as the place where two Oceans, the Atlantic and the India, join together, and even has a stone marking the official place where the two bodies of water become one. The area around Cape Agulhas is treacherous, known and feared by sailors for centuries. The weather in winter is particularly harsh, and there have been many shipwrecks close to the shore, mostly of ships carrying goods to and from South Africa, increasing the isolation that the European settlers felt. In order to try and prevent the shipwrecks, a large striped lighthouse was built in 1848, but Cape Agulhas was already known as the Cape of Storms.
The climates which are carried by the Oceans also meet at Cape Agulhas, meaning that the farms in the area are always much cooler than in similar locations further up the coast. Even the area near Cape Town is warmer than Cape Agulhas, but it has become a popular place to try and produce wines. This is because many vines need cooling air in order to properly ripen, particularly those from Northern Europe, or the North of Italy. These vines find that the cool climate around the southernmost tip of Africa are ideal for their needs.
Although Cape Agulhas was once a traditional location for wine farms, it has not been included on any wine routes until fairly recently. Moving towards the Breede River Valley, the Route takes in a number of significant wine-producing towns, including Montagu, and also includes a look at the Tankwa-Karoo national Park. Known as the Breedekloof Wine Route, this should open up the doors to tourists, allowing Cape Agulhas to gain public awareness of its prime position for wine farms and top quality wine production.
Even though the district is the newest in South Africa, it has many benefits which modern wine growers are learning to appreciate, such as the close proximity of the Hemel en Aarde areas, which are also producing a wide range of wines. By connecting closely with these more familiar wine-making locations, Cape Agulhas is likely to get more attention for its wines, some of which have already won national awards. With more awareness, the wine producers of the district should be able to reach beyond South Africa, and start bringing in prizes from international competitions.
One important change which has transformed the nature of wine growing in the Cape Agulhas is the new emphasis upon biodiversity. The district is part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, and wine growers have been identified as vital to the survival of the Fynbos plant. This Kingdom is also home to a variety of other flora and fauna. Efforts have been made to improve the impact of wine farming upon the environment, including the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative. This project aims to encourage farmers to reduce their carbon footprint, to recycle water and plant matter, and to practice environmentally friendly methods of growing and producing wine.